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Open Access EMDR and the Treatment of Complex PTSD: A Review

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The diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) covers a wide range of conditions, ranging from patients suffering from a one-time traumatic accident to those who have been exposed to chronic traumatization and repeated assaults beginning at an early age. While EMDR and other trauma treatments have been proven efficacious in the treatment of simpler cases of PTSD, the effectiveness of treatments for more complex cases has been less widely studied. This article examines the body of literature on the treatment of complex PTSD and chronically traumatized populations, with a focus on EMDR treatment and research. Despite a still limited number of randomized controlled studies of any treatment for complex PTSD, trauma treatment experts have come to a general consensus that work with survivors of childhood abuse and other forms of chronic traumatization should be phase-oriented, multimodal, and titrated. A phase-oriented EMDR model for working with these patients is presented, highlighting the role of resource development and installation (RDI) and other strategies that address the needs of patients with compromised affect tolerance and self-regulation. EMDR treatment goals, procedures, and adaptations for each of the various treatment phases (stabilization, trauma processing, reconnection/development of self-identity) are reviewed. Finally, reflections on the strengths and unique advantages of EMDR in treating complex PTSD are offered along with suggestions for future investigations.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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